Punch Out!!
Box Shot
Punch Out!!
Platform: NES
Publisher: Nintendo
Designer: Nintendo
Genre: Boxing
Players: 1
Published Date 1987
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

I'll get this right off the bat...I'm not a fan of sports games and I never have been. And yet I find it odd that a boxing game, something which I would expect to be rather boring, actually turns out to be an incredibly fun game.

You are Little Mac (they allow you to fight at age 17??) and you have to fight a bunch of contenders before you reach the top. Nintendo made two versions of the game: the original included Mike Tyson as the last boxer, while newer versions include Mr. Dream (Nintendo claimed that their contract with Tyson had expired when the game was re-released, but they the truth is they didn't want a rapist endorsing their game. Wise choise, actually.) Anyway, one particularly neat aspect of the game is that it really doesn't take itself too seriously. Each of the characters in the game shows this. Glass Joe is a complete moron with one win, tons of losses, and simply meant to help you train for the game. Piston Honda is a Japanese fighter who comes at you with his rapid Piston Punches. The infamous King Hippo can only be damaged when you punch him in the mouth (which drops his pants) when you can then hit his stomach. Every fighter has their own unique attack and weakness. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, you'll have to fight some characters twice (but they are harder the second time around.)

Most of the actual game relies heavily on reflexes and learning patterns. Many opponents give off a sign when they are about to attack...you simply dodge and then give them several blows to the jaw. This is the way most of the fights go...until the "warning signals" get more subtle, and the high punches when they are stunned simply don't work any more. Now, you've got to discover other weaknesses. The controls aren't hard: "B" throws a left punch, "A" a right punch. If you press Up, you'll aim for the head. Left and Right dodges, while blocking and ducking are accomplished by pressing down. If you hit an enemy while he's particularly vulnerable, you'll get a star. These are required for Super Punches, activated by the Start button. In addition to your life meter, you also have a "heart" meter. Every time a punch is blocked, your punch is blocked, or you get hit, your heart meter goes down. When it hits zero, you get tired for a few seconds, and the only thing you can do is dodge. This does seem to help make the game a bit more realistic.

The graphics are actually very good, with all of the characters being large and colorful. Mac is a shrimp, but that's the way it was meant to be. He is viewed from a over-the-shoulder perspective instead of the transparent, green wire frame image of the old arcade game (anyone remember that?) There's only one fight theme in the game, and while it's very good, it can also get a tad irritating after you hear it millions of times. All of the sound effects are rather goofy, but still decent. They just do more to allude to the fact that the game isn't serious like every other boxing game on the market. The response time for Little Mac dodging could be a bit better, and to duck, you must press Down twice rapidly (otherwise, you just block.) There are also times that you hit an opponent, and he doesn't seem to block, but no damage comes to him anyway. Hmmmm...

Despite the fact that it seems very repetetive, Punch Out!! is actually a lot of fun. It's a great game just to start from the beginning and beat the crap out of everyone, since the action is quite fun. Most of the joy gets taken out once you learn the weaknesses of the fighters. Until you discover them, you're probably end up frustrated and annoyed. And some fighters don't seem to have patterns (Mr. Sandman and beyond) so fighting gets extremely tough. I have still not beaten Tyson/Mr. Dream to this day. As with many games that require the learning of patterns, you must have patience. Even if you don't like boxing, hunt down this classic. It's worth it.